Yes But What Is This? What Exactly? by Ian McMillan
Time passes. It passes / It passes. It scores.
Ian McMillan was born in 1956, in Darfield, South Yorkshire, England and was educated at North Staffordshire Polytechnic. He has been a poet, broadcaster, commentator and programme-maker for over 20 years. He is currently the presenter of Radio 3’s The Verb, a spoken word show. When not volunteering regularly at the Darfield Museum, he can be found watching Barnsley FC or being a top quality grandfather. He also spends almost as much time as I do on Twitter.
This pamphlet is 16 poems long and, if I were teaching a poetry course, I’d use it as an object lesson not only in what poetry can create as an experience, but how economy is often the best form of presentation. There is a depth and reach in every work that only comes with a proper understanding of words. Ian and words work together very well.
Lessons from the Text
The titular poem in this collection is a masterclass of how to start with an idea, and comprehensively exhaust it: it’s what Morecambe and Wise used to be so, so good at when at their comedic peak. It’s the reason why I spent so much time listening to Mark and Lard on Radio One in the 1990’s. Jokes can be warped upon themselves, woven and rewoven and stretched and smoothed: this sequence is, for want of a better metaphor, poetic Blackpool Rock. The word ‘Time’ is written through every word, as repetition makes the end result that much sweeter.
Ian’s poetry is, it appears to me, exactly like the Ian I see working and broadcasting on any given day: honest, smart, funny and slightly surprised that anyone is listening. Every single poem here never pretends to be anything else than its poet’s authentic voice. It does that job so effortlessly and comfortably, it should also be taught as the benchmark for what to aspire to when people pick up your work. I’m fairly confident I could spot a McMillan original in a poetic line-up, which some might consider a disadvantage. It absolutely isn’t.
There’s controversy here [Three Flat Caps at the Bottom of the Stairs], musings on current events [Lighter] and simple moments of unmitigated brilliance [Seeing a Goal Scored from a Passing Train] Every single one is held together with the stitchings of a man who remains at the absolute top of his poetic game. When someone possesses such an eye for detail, and practices his craft on a daily basis, you KNOW it’s worth your time. If offered a pie and a pint or this book… be smart. Insist on both.
That would be true perfection.
Will you read it again? When there is enough money, I will collect together everything Ian has written. I’m not saying I’d make a shrine, but at the same time, I’m not saying I wouldn’t. So we’re clear.